Councillors question Connel Bridge lifespan

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Upgrade options for Connel Bridge over the next five years  include a full repainting job, replacing the concrete deck and increasing the height clearance, says Transport Scotland.

Consultations will be carried out with stakeholders before any refurbishment is carried out and much of the proposed work would be undertaken at night to minimise disruption to the travelling public.

Questions over the lifespan of the bridge were raised at Ardchattan Community Council.

Members want to know how long the bridge can last and if there is a back-up plan.

Co-opted community councillor Willie Barnett fronted the question wanting to know what Transport Scotland’s contingency plan was if the bridge was suddenly deemed unfit for purpose.

Ardchattan Community Council is now writing to Transport Scotland to find out about any replacement plan because ‘it won’t last forever’, said convener Margaret Adams.

‘If the bridge goes down or is suddenly deemed unfit for purpose, North Argyll will have a serious problem,’ said Mr Barnett.

Last December, a lorry struck the bridge, forcing 90-minute detours via Glencoe while engineers checked the structure.

The Oban Times has also asked if there is a plan-in-waiting to build a new bridge in the same location or elsewhere across the stretch of water and of any homes could be affected.

We were told the design life of bridges is 120 years but, with continued inspection and maintenance, Transport Scotland and BEAR Scotland would expect Connel Bridge to last considerably longer. The original structural elements of the bridge were built in 1903 with the roadway decking added later.

BEAR Scotland carries out checks at ‘appropriate frequencies’ to make sure any problems are identified and remedied as soon as possible.

‘Significant maintenance has been undertaken since 2000, including repainting, corrosion repairs and work to the joints. The regime currently in place will ensure the bridge operates in a safe manner and remains open to the travelling public. Consideration is currently being given to longer-term refurbishment options, and these will be developed in consultation with our key stakeholders,’ said a Transport Scotland spokesperson.

BEAR’s inspections follow a set programme with regular checks ranging from every three months to 12 years. The three-monthly checks ensure drainage gullies, cover slabs and navigation lights are working well while the 12-yearly work includes a dive survey for ship impact to the supports and maintenance of some less-accessible elements such as the suspended span joints.

A spokesperson for BEAR Scotland added: ‘Connel Bridge is more than 100 years old and, as would be expected of all bridges at this age, refurbishment works will be required at some point in the future to ensure the structure remains capable of suiting the changing demands of traffic on the trunk road network. Before any future works take place, consultation will be carried out with the local community to discuss any proposals.’

Any new paint used on the bridge would have to have a maintenance life of at least 20 years.